Bertelsmann is Europe's biggest media company, with significant interests in all areas of media including television, film and radio and book, magazine and newspaper publishing. Subsidiary businesses include broadcaster RTL, magazine publisher Gruner & Jahr and the world's largest book publisher Penguin Random House. The latter was formed in 2013 through the merger of Bertelsmann's Random House with Pearson-owned Penguin. The German group will buy out Pearson in 2020. Its most successful book in 2018 was Michelle Obama's 'Becoming', the top-selling autobiography of all times with sales of over 10m copies. The group's original recorded music group BMG was sold to Sony in 2008 but Bertelsmann retained a small but significant music publishing business under the same name, and has begun to move back into recorded music to exploit the explosion in digital distribution. Its Arvato division is a powerhouse behind the scenes in services such as book and periodical printing, CD manufacturing and IT services. That division's CRM and direct mail operations were separated out in 2018 under the name Majorel. For several years in the early 2000s, Bertelsmann had been gradually restructuring itself in anticipation of an IPO. That process was painful to say the least, leading to the ousting of several senior executives. In the end however, Bertelsmann took the decision to remain private, buying back the shares it didn't already hold. As a result it is entirely owned and controlled by Germany's Mohn family. Revenues for 2018 were €17.7bn, the highest level for more than a decade, with net profit of €1.1bn. Thomas Rabe is CEO.
Capsule checked 13th April 2018
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Adbrands Daily Update 18th Dec 2019: As expected, Bertelsmann will officially take full control of Penguin Random House next year, probably in 2Q. It will acquire struggling Pearson's remaining 25% stake for $675m, subject to regulatory approval. Penguin Random House generated total revenues of €3.4bn in 2018 and an operating profit of €528m.
Adbrands Weekly Update 29th Mar 2018: Bertelsmann reported its best performance for more than a decade, with revenues edging up by 1% to €17.2bn, and net profit by 0.5% to just under €1.2bn. TV and radio broadcaster RTL continues to dominate the group, with revenues rising to €6.4bn. That division alone accounted for more than half of group operating income. There was an increase in revenues for Arvato, the group's #2 division, to €3.8bn, while #3 Random House Penguin was down very slightly to €3.4bn. Both suffered a slight decline in profitability.
Adbrands Weekly Update 13th Jul 2017: Bertelsmann is to acquire an additional 22% of equity in the Random House Penguin joint venture with Pearson, lifting its total holding to 75%. The deal values the business at $3.55bn. The move was largely expected, giving Bertelsmann greater control of the world's biggest book publisher. Pearson has been gradually withdrawing from other businesses to focus on educational publishing. It will retain the remaining 25% for at least another 18 months, at which point Bertelsmann has an option to take full control.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Mar 2017: German media giant Bertelsmann reported its best profit since 2006, with net earnings up almost 3% to €1.14bn. That was despite a 1% decline in revenues to €16.95bn as a result of exchange rates. The key contributor was broadcast division RTL, which reported steady growth in revenues to a new high of €6.24bn and operating profit of €1.41bn. Marketing and logistics business Arvato also performed well, along with small but fast-growing music rights unit BMG. There were declines at Penguin Random House, despite the massive global success of Paula Hawkins' The Girl On The Train, and the Gruner & Jahr magazine division and printing group were also weak.
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Jan 2017: Bertelsmann looks set to take full control of book publishing giant Random House Penguin, after partner Pearson triggered an option to exit the business. That decision follows an "unprecedented" decline in Pearson's core North American educational publishing business, where sales dived by 30% in the final quarter. Formed in 2013 by the merger of Bertelsmann's Random House and Pearson-owned Penguin, the business is currently a joint venture, 53%-controlled by Bertelsmann. The German company said it is "open" to buying out Pearson's 47% stake "provided the financial terms are fair".
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